Units to join forces in mission to bring U.S. servicemembers' remains home
July 12, 2003
Two military units deeply involved in the search for fallen GIs from America’s past conflicts will be merging into a new command in October.
The Hawaii-based Joint Task Force-Full Accounting at Camp Smith, and the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, will become the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
“CILHI and JTF-FA remain devoted, dedicated and determined to achieving the fullest possible accounting of our missing personnel from our nation’s wars,” CILHI Deputy Commander Johnie E. Webb Jr. stated in a news release.
Combining the organizations’ assets, personnel and expertise “can only equal a stronger and more efficient organization,” Webb stated in the release.
The U.S. Pacific Command’s Adm. Thomas Fargo recommended proceeding with the merger to increase efficiency by placing the units, which have similar goals, under the same commander and staff.
“The new command would have the mission to search for, recover and identify remains of American military personnel and American civilian personnel unaccounted for from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War and the Vietnam War,” said Brig. Gen. Steven J. Redmann, the Joint Task Force-Full Accounting commander.
He said creating a single joint command “will clearly demonstrate the U.S. government’s increased commitment to resolving the accounting mission.”
The merger will combine the central identification lab’s 250 people and $21 million annual budget with the JTF-FA’s 155 people and $40 million budget.
All present-day missions and functions at CILHI and JTF-FA, officials said, will continue unless the Department of Defense directs otherwise.
The merger will not lessen either organization’s commitment to or efforts for the accounting effort. All investigative and recovery teams will continue deploying worldwide in full strength.
For the next several years, the joint command will continue to operate out of Camp Smith and Hickam until a location where both units can consolidate is found on Oahu.
Prior to the merger, a Defense Department study team will determine staffing, budget and facility requirements. The merger committee will consist of personnel from the Joint Staff, Army Staff, the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office, the Pacific Command Staff, CILHI and JTF-FA.
Army Lt. Col. Jerry O’Hara, a JTF-FA spokesman, said the merger would not dilute search and recovery efforts for 78,000 U.S. servicemembers missing from World War II; 8,800 from the Korean War; 100 from the Cold War, and 1,874 from the Vietnam War.
“We’re not doing this to save money or take away from the mission,” O’Hara was quoted as saying by the Honolulu Advertiser. “We’re really doing this to create efficiencies on the operational level, based in part because one commander will be the commander of the worldwide effort.”
JTF-FA was created in 1992 to account for Americans missing from the war in Southeast Asia. The central identification lab, started in 1973, has a broader mission of searching for missing U.S. service personnel from World War II, the Korean War, Cold War and Vietnam War.
O’Hara called the units “pretty complementary organizations.”
“We need all of the sections, because what Joint Task Force was mostly about was analysis and investigation, and what CILHI is mostly about is recovery and identification,” O’Hara said.